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Does where you are change your palette?

I was thinking about this the other night. I went to Smith & Wollensky's three years ago and hated my steak. I went to Outback the other night and loved my steak. I'm pretty sure my steak at S&W was better than Outback, but I expected something more.

Does where you go change your expectations? I try to keep an open mind. The best flautas I've ever had were at an Italian-based restaurant. The salad I've ever had was in an Irish Pub. But these were served with me having no expectations. Would I like the same flautas as much at a Mexican place? The same salad in a fancier place.

Do our expectations change our critiques? Perfect examples for me on CH are people bashing Le Bernardin or Peter Luger. We all know they don't serve a bad meal. Yet, people still bash.

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  1. I totally think that expectations play a role in whether I like a place or not. That said, I try not to have unrealistic expectations of any restaurant. The way I figure it, if I don't go into every meal expecting a life changing event (and believe me, I know some people who do just that) then I'm more apt to enjoy myself.

    3 Replies
    1. re: iluvcookies

      I know people that will walk into a burger joint, order a steak and then bitch and moan it wasn't good. What did they expect? funny thing is they do it all the time. Almost like they want to hate the place

      1. re: jhopp217

        I see you've met my father in law :)

    2. LOL! I'm amazed and impressed that you ordered flautas at an Italian restaurant. Glad they were great.

      I keep low-to-realistic expectations even at spendy places, and very often am pleasantly surprised. Pappadeaux's crawfish bisque is always a decadent pleasure, even though it's probably poured out of a 3-gallon bag. I had some shitty, soggy, flabby Jerusalem artichokes at a spendy steakhouse in Vegas, but just rolled with it.

      3 Replies
      1. re: DuchessNukem

        I have the recipe for Pappadeaux' crawfish bisque. It's a major production, not poured out of a bag. That's why it's good. I've never made it because I didn't want to get into saving shells for stock and all that jazz. To easy to enjoy at their restaurant.

        1. re: arashall

          Ah that gladdens my heart, arashall. I'd ask for the recipe but there's no way I'd put the time in either lol. :)

        2. re: DuchessNukem

          HAHA! It's a neighborhood place with burgers, meatloaf, fried chicken, but the owner is Italian, so it's specials menu is all Italian for the most part. One night he (yes, he taught his highly Mexican staff how to make everything) made flautas and asked me to try them. They were awesome. I actually recently had flautas at a Mexican place and they were below average, but I actually expected them to be very good, because I was there.

        3. Yeah, value does impact my pallette. If I'm dropping $300+ on a special meal with my SO, it better taste better than what I make at home or from a casual restaurant chain!

          1 Reply
          1. I don't think it changes your palette. But it does change your expectations.

            If I'm eating a 45 day aged steak at somewhere expensive, I have an expecation that it will be superb. And I will be critical if it isn't. On the other hand, if I'm eating at my local chain steakhouse, I don't expect the same flavour but I do expect it to be properly cooked.

            1. All of our experiences are influenced by our expectations.

              2 Replies
              1. re: linguafood

                I agree -- it's the expectations that change, not our palates.

                Our palates can change, too, but it takes considerably longer -- months or even years.

                1. re: sunshine842

                  Your spelling is like sunshine.....

              2. Expectations vary greatly for me as well as my acceptable level of food, so I guess that comes out to, in effect, a change in palate.

                1. No.

                  My palate stays the same.

                  Do I "cut some slack" for certain restaurants? Yes, I do. However, I do not try to change my palate, or what I enjoy.


                  1. I'll agree with all of those talking about expectations on this thread. My expectations certainly fluctuate according to the type of establishment I am eating at.

                    In fact, I think a lot of what I see on these boards, from the discussions here, on Not About Food, to my regional board are about expectations. If a restaurant is lauded by a number of commenters on my local board and another poster goes there and only has an average experience, it is more likely that the latter poster's review will be negative. Similarly, on this board, if someone attends a party and is expecting a full meal but is only served appetizers, the post is likely to be negative.

                    When dealing with food and/or social situations, expectations often dictate the level of enjoyment. Accordingly, the most hostile and negative posts I see on these boards generally occur when expectations are not met by any of the associated parties. Unsurprisingly, these situations often stem from a lack of communication, which results in mutual misunderstanding.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: MonMauler

                      I do agree, regarding "expectations." Now, I do not do much "casual dining," like I did back in school, or when my wife was in grad-school, so probably enter with great expectations, at most restaurants. Often, those are met. Sometimes, they are exceeded, and are the stuff of memories. However, I do try to be realistic, should I not be doing a Michelin-starred restaurant.

                      Once, we were traveling cross-country (USA), and got to Dodge City, KS, rather late. There were two restaurants near our motel - a Golden Corral (had never dined at one before), and a McDonalds (had not done one of those in years). We chose the Golden Corral, and were blown away by the steaks. They were up in the "top-20" category. After that, we tried two local (Denver Area) Golden Corrals, but with far more disappointing results. They were NOT the same, and the quality of the little steaks were way, way down the list. Who knew? Obviously, the restaurant in Dodge City sourced the beef locally, and it was great. Others? Well my guess is that it was long ago frozen, and shipped in a truck from wherever. For us, lesson learned. After about 3 - 4 attempts, we gave up on that "quick, family casual chain," and have not tried again, in over 25 years. There was a little bit of magic that night, but it was lost in the general corporate policies.

                      Same for a now, long-gone Pizza Inn, in Gulfport, MS. Their pies were things of beauty, and done just right, time and again. All attempts at recreating those pies, have met with corporate failure, with nothing to show for it. Guess that the owner, or manager, knew his/her stuff, and it definitely showed. I'd put that old Gulfport, MS shop up against Chris Bianco, here in Phoenix, and he's been awarded the "Best Pizza in the USA" by half-a-dozen food magazines.

                      When I walk into a "casual dining restaurant," I have low expectations, and only hope that they ARE exceeded, though they seldom are.


                    2. St. Louisans may know Pollack's First Law: Restaurants set their standards by the way they price themselves. If you're the most expensive restaurant in town, you bloody well better be the best.